Resort set to remember night of terror when floods left 41 dead

Aerial view of the area of Felixstowe affected by the 1953 floods Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Aerial view of the area of Felixstowe affected by the 1953 floods Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant

People in Felixstowe will once again remember the pain and distress caused by Britain’s biggest peacetime disaster as they mark the deaths of 41 adults and children in the 1953 floods.

A short service of commemoration will be held at the Flood Memorial, Langer Road, this month – and the town council has issued an open invitation for people to attend.

Felixstowe’s low-lying West End area saw floodwaters more than six feet deep as a tidal surge which swept south down the North Sea, fuelled by a deep depression over Scotland, broke through the banks of the River Orwell where today stands the Port of Felixstowe.

The water poured into homes, leaving those in prefabs and bungalows little route for escape and those in houses desperately dashing upstairs to seek safety.

About 800 acres – one fifth of the town – was flooded, including not just homes but part of the air base where the port now stands.

Last year more than 70 people, along with dozens of pupils from Langer Primary Academy and their teachers, gathered at the Flood Memorial.

This year, to mark the 66th anniversary of the tragedy, people are invited to gather at 10am on Thursday, January 31 at the memorial, near the Langer Road-Beach Station Road traffic lights.

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Rev Andrew Dotchin, Vicar of St John’s Church and St Edmund’s, and Rural Dean of the Colneys Deanery, will lead the service and Mayor of Felixstowe, Graham Newman will lay a wreath to commemorate the 1953 North Sea Floods.

Mr Newman said: “The 1953 Floods were the biggest-ever peace time disaster to hit the town of Felixstowe, and much of the infrastructure we see along the sea frontage today was built as a result of them.

“The town will never forget the pain and distress the event caused to those who lost their lives, and those who were bereaved as a result of it.

“We also remember with thanks those who worked tirelessly in the rescue effort, often putting their own lives at risk.”

More than 300 people died in coastal towns and villages on a night of sheer terror.

In Felixstowe, the 41 dead included whole families, 13 of them children. Many of them lived in prefabs in Orford Road, where the torrent of water ripped the buildings from their foundations and took them into Langer Road.